"Queer as Folk" gives America a culture shock
By ANN FINSTAD
I can still remember where I was the first time I watched
"Queer as Folk." I was getting ready to go to bed
after a day on the beach, flipping channels in a Cancun hotel
room. I stopped on a channel featuring a show Iíd heard about
but never seen. There were subtitles in Spanish running across
the bottom of the screen, I couldnít name a single character
Ö and I was glued to my seat Ė er, bed Ė for every minute, from
the opening with its brightly colored dancing boys all the way
through the end credits.
My sister was hooked, too, and each night, we would apply
Solarcaine to our sunburns and, without the benefit of a TV
Guide, turn on the television in hopes that another episode
would be on.
We were there a week, and in that time, we saw a good chunk
of the first season.
What I remember most about vacationing in Cancun were not
the gorgeous beaches or the endless blue skies; not the Mayan
ruins or the attractive Mexican soccer team staying at the same
hotel. I remember that television show.
To call "Queer as Folk" a gay show is like calling
"Friends" a straight show, or "CSI" a crime
show. It's true in the strictest sense, but lacking when it
comes to honestly describing what the series is and what it
accomplishes. "Queer as Folk" is smartly written,
with vivid characters, caring families, relevant social commentary,
and love stories that will tug at your heartstrings. It just
so happens that most of its characters are gay.
The show is not one for the younger-than-13 set, or the squeamish.
But that's not because of the subject matter. It's because of
the show's depictions of drug use, profanity, casual sex and
nudity Ė in a post-"Sex and the City" world. But isnít
that what weíve come to expect from cable TV? Barrier-breaking
story lines and scenes to match, gritty real-life stories that
contain all the pathos, reality, and drama that we donít get
in the sitcom world? "Queer as Folk" accomplishes
all this and more.
Whereas network TV Ė despite all the "progress"
that's been made Ė still hypes a same-sex kiss in grandiose,
sweeps month fashion, "Queer as Folk" does none of
that. It simply says this is the way we live our life. Accept
it for what it is.
"Queer as Folk" has been accused of being over-the-top
and showing only a small stereotyped portion of gay life. But
isnít it better to show a fraction of that life than none at
Sure, sometimes the story lines get a little soapy and every
so often I wonder how many more bare butts I can take in an
hour. But as a whole, it's fresh television of the non-WB variety.
After all, even the most precocious teens on those shows don't
spout lines like "you like young dick?" as an introduction
like 16-year-old Hunter did during the third season of "Queer
This June issue of Lumino Magazine features interviews with
six cast members of "Queer as Folk." Each reflects
on his or her role, as well as real life. In the Cultured section,
Lumino also has personal stories of a man growing up gay in
Chicago and a straight woman who sees shades of gray. Cultured
also contains an argument against gay marriage, and a feature
on the inborn/environment debate.
If you havenít seen "Queer as Folk," nowís your
chance to start. I guarantee it wonít take a trip to Cancun
to hook you Ė though it couldnít hurt.
And even if you don't agree with the lifestyle portrayed,
shows like "Queer as Folk" demand America's attention
and fire up a social dialogue. And discussing any topic Ė instead
of treating it as taboo Ė is good.
Hal Sparks is just like us
By JESSE SCACCIA
Hal Sparks is intelligent, affable, funny, clean-cut, highly
quotable, good looking in a non-threatening way, endearing,
and has been the star of a highly regarded primetime Showtime
program for the last three seasons. Why, then, did it take more
than a year for him to land on a major talk show?
"People were afraid of the word queer, I guess,"
says Sparks, star of "Queer as Folk." His first network
talk show appearance came on "The Tonight Show" on
Jan. 26, 2001 Ė 421 days after "Queer as Folk" first
hit American air waves.
"Leno was freaked out," Sparks says. "Granted,
it was my first time on the show. But there was this ĎLetís
get through these questionsí vibe to it. I made a joke at his
expense and it got a big laugh. It was more relaxed after that."
The joke that disarmed the king of late night television?
"He asked how it was to kiss a guy. I said, ĎHow committed
are you to experimenting?í"
Sparks isnít gay. He isnít queer, homosexual, or a fag, either,
but thanks for asking. Heís from Kentucky, he doesnít bite,
and heís straight. This is a fact that some people will not
"I get asked the same question by the same reporters
over the years, even after Iíve been up front with them. They
keep asking if Iím gay yet. Like, has it taken?" Sparks
says with an audible sigh. "Thereís this idea that being
gay is contagious. That itís airborne."
The 34-year-old Sparks is your everyday, down-to-earth actor
with a touring rock band, an expertise in martial arts, a faith
in Buddhism, a regular gig on VH1ís "I Love the '70s"
and "I Love the '80s" series, and the starring role
of Michael, the protagonist on "Queer as Folk," the
show that won "Outstanding Drama Series" at last yearís
Really, Hal Sparks is just like you and me. There is an irony
to the fact that not only is one of the most prominent faces
of gay America straight, but heís an ass-kicker as well. The
150-pound, 5-foot-8-inch Sparks has been known to throw down
when necessary. "It was a few years ago. It was some dick
at a party yelling at his girlfriend," Sparks says, remembering
his last fight. "I gave my standard speech. ĎIf you have
this arrangement with your girlfriend, you can do it in your
own home. But if you do it in public, youíre saying youíre the
big monkey in the room. And youíre not.í And thatís usually
when I throw the guy through a table."
Sparks doesnít mind taking on the biggest monkeys of them
all, including the current presidential administration. "The
world is currently run by rich kids on coke," he says,
referring to the Bush administration. He wouldnít mind working
for a think tank or the Carlyle Group, if only so he can begin
sentences with "theoretically speaking."
Hal Sparks is drawn to religion, politics, and sex in the
same hypnotic way that preteen girls are drawn to the Olsen
twins. He canít seem to stay away from all the topics that you
arenít supposed to talk about at the dinner table. "I find
it very ironic that if the Bible were found today in Syria,
the people who found it would be burning it because of where
they found it," he says.
"Only the Middle Eastern religions speak of an end,"
Sparks continued. "All other religions are cyclical. In
the Middle East where you live in a desert, life is hell. You
have to believe that maybe youíll find an oasis after you die,
and you have to believe that death is better than life. It breeds
this kind of psychology. The highest thing becomes overcoming
When Hal Sparks talks, his voice is calm and confident. It
is clear in the way he articulates his ideas that his thoughts
are more lucid than most peopleís. Sparks is one of a new brand
of celebrity that has shunned the vapid, party animal, sunglasses-and-tan-skin
look in favor of a more well-rounded and intelligent image.
In fact, Sparks doesnít smoke, drink or do drugs Ė all of which
he makes sure you remember.
It might just be that he doesnít have time for these things.
Hal Sparksí plate is piled higher than a tray at the Shoneyís
buffet. Apart from the acting, the television specials, the
band, and the martial arts, Sparks has even grander ambitions.
"Eventually I want to be a white collar actor who goes
to Italy who gets pictures taken of him in the buff against
their will," he says.
Just like the rest of us, right?
Peter Paige chases ambitious career
By LUKAS SZYMAKEK
If it talks like a woman, walks like a woman and dresses
like a man who spends too much time getting in touch with his
inner woman, then it is probably Emmett Honeycutt. Out of the
"Queer As Folk" bunch he is the radiant one. Heís
the optimist, the naÔf, the comic relief, the queen. He is Jack
McFarland. Whether he is starring in his best friendís gay porn
productions as a main attraction, or mourning the sudden death
of his senior lover after the two have sex in an airplane bathroom,
the character never fails to deliver laughs, heart and surprising
"I donít mean to come down on other actors, but I honestly
think I got the best character," admits Peter Paige of
his TV incarnation, the colorful Emmett. "He has so much
life in him. Heís so open with his emotions."
The actor has had a lot of experience acting in television
and theater. Before landing a role on "Queer As Folk"
he did short but memorable appearances in sitcoms like "Suddenly
Susan" and "Will & Grace." But it is his
theatrical background that really speaks of Peterís acting merit.
An enthusiast of the profession since his childhood in West
Hartford, Conn., Paige graduated from Boston Universityís School
of Theatre Arts and starred in numerous productions nationwide
before being spotted by an agent and eventually moving to Los
"Iím a greedy little mother. I want to do it all,"
admits Paige jokingly, but also with a sense of urgent seriousness.
Paige's other passions are writing and directing. He talks
about eventually moving out of the mainstream spotlight and
getting behind the camera. "I want a Stanley Tucci, or
Kevin Spacey-kind of a career," he says.
Paige refers to the diversity of the other actorsí projects.
He also longs for the theater. "Last year I did a world
premiere, and I did plays at the end of "Queer As Folk"
seasons 1 and 2," he says. "This has been the longest
time I have gone without being on stage now."
Meanwhile, thereís a new season of "Queer As Folk,"
and Peter has been doing a lot of promoting for the show, including
trips to New York, Miami, Atlanta, and San Francisco. The new
season, he says, will be interesting for Emmett, who at the
end of the last one came to a painful confrontation with his
boyfriend, Ted, over a drug addiction.
"Thereís a lot of damage that has to be undone,"
Paige admits. "But the producers really let the characters
settle in their breakup."
Paige reiterates how much he enjoys playing a character so
versatile, emotionally honest, and trustful even if sometimes
a bit naÔve. Emmett went from working in retail to working in
porn, from the arms of a much older lover to those of his best
friend. He has always remained extremely tolerant and positive.
A gay stereotype or not, Emmett Honeycutt is a strong and proud
man who can be admired in his versatility and self-confidence.
Paige admits that later in the new season, Emmett will get in
some trouble. But in a good way, he adds quickly.
Now back in LA, Peter is busy with a yet another project.
He is directing a low-budget, independent movie titled "Donut
Hole," starring himself and Kathy Najimy. He describes
the film briefly as "a comedy about the culture of suspicion."
He had a casting session and a meeting scheduled, followed by
a discussion with producers.
While the exertion of a director is enormous and completely
different from an actorís experience, Peter may have found his
element here. He wants to do it all. And who are we to say he
Scott Lowell battles weather, character's tragedy
By LUKAS SZYMANEK
It was the last week of March when Scott Lowell finally arrived
home after another six-month shoot in Toronto. You can sense
a joy and relief in his voice Ė or perhaps he sounds like that
all the time. Maybe he is one of those people who doesnít complain
no matter how much work exhausts him. Maybe itís because he
is doing an interview and knows Iím writing down every word.
His sense of humor is nothing but genuine, though.
I feel comfortable, even a bit intimidated and shamelessly
jealous. Heís in sunny L.A., probably on his porch. Iím sitting
in my apartment in Chicago, having deserted the winter-tortured
outdoors for the comfort of the living room couch.
Lowell knows what Iím talking about when I casually complain
to him about the weather in an awkward beginning of our conversation.
Born in 1965 in Denver, then having studied acting in Connecticut
for 11 years since 1987, Lowell has lived, grown and acted here
in the Windy City. But no, he has not hung out with David Schwimmer.
"[Chicago] is a great place to start off as an actor,"
admits the Ďnot-much-anymoreí struggling star himself. "For
six, seven years I have done non-union off Loop theatre, going
from show to show. I ended up doing everything, even if four
people showed up. You learn so much from that."
There also were more successful performances at the famed
Steppenwolf and Goodman theaters. He reminds himself for a moment
in the sprit of self-irony of a terrible review he once got
from a Chicago Tribune critic, who called his performance in
"The Merchant of Venice," "bluntlessly unfunny."
Lowell is not bitter about criticism, though. These days, he
nails the dry and often uneasy humor of Ted Schmidt on the hit
Showtime drama "Queer As Folk," not to mention the
characterís inner demons. Thereís also the personal and difficult
aspect of shedding Ted from his consciousness at home.
"Ted is a terrific guy. He is very caring; he loves
his friends," Lowell says. "It is hard for me to see
him go through all these terrible things."
Last season, the writers gave the actor a chance to strut
his dramatic talent by throwing some harsh barrels under Tedís
feet. Viewers watched him fall in love with his best friend
Emmett, then spiral into drug addiction that wrecked his life,
love and friendship.
Lowell talks about the "lack of self-love, the amount
of self-loathing" that is evident in his character. "He
does not see his own worth, constantly searches for happiness
outside of himself."
In the third season more than ever, Lowell had to successfully
balance his characterís dual persona. Seen only as overly sarcastic
and comically insecure until recently, Ted exposed himself as
deeply disturbed, succumbing to addiction despite his boyfriendís
affection. "Itís this self torture he puts himself through
Ė it is starting to take its toll on me. I love playing this
character that goes beyond only surface happiness, but the residual
effects I have to come home with are tough," Lowell says.
His honest portrayal of pained addiction resonated in appreciation
from real-life victims. The gay-themed show that has tackled
so many issues already has given a new audience demographic
something big to relate to. "I have friends who are addicts,
who now talk to me about their problem. Last yearís story line
moved a lot of people, it validated their own experience. Theyíre
happy we recognized them."
So how will Ted cope with his tragedy? "He will start
to rebuild his life from scratch," Lowell says. "Itís
been a difficult journey; Ted hurt Emmett a lot, but the writers
did a wonderful job with recovery."
Still, Lowell says his and Peter Paigeís (who plays Emmett)
schedules were a lot different this past shooting period, hinting
at the on-screen coupleís possible fate. "The new season
will show a lot of growth in character, relationships getting
deeper, and boys becoming men, coming into maturity."
When Lowell and I spoke, the cast was still waiting for the
showís official pick-up for next season. Recently, the big guys
over at Showtime decided to bring this fable of queer Neverland
by way of Pittsburgh back for a fifth season. "Queer As
Folk," while never really critically praised for its creativity
has proved a big success on both commercial and cultural fronts
over the years. "The show has been ahead of the curve and
now itís riding the wave," Lowell says, referring to its
gay content and graphic explicitness. "Showtime spent a
lot of money in re-launching the series; theyíve been very supportive,"
he adds, quite certain (correctly, it turns out) that the network
will green light another year.
For now, it is time to switch from the brutal Toronto weather
and even more brutal subconscious of Ted to the sunny-minded
state of California. I learn that Lowell's vacation does not
start yet, though. The life of an actor on a mega-popular TV
network drama does not end with a final season wrap and a cast
hug. There are plenty of promotional appearances to make. Lowell
is also collaborating in writing with his friend, film actor
Eddie Jemison, this summer, but admits it is hard to focus on
anything else after "Queer As Folk."
As for the weather, I realize a bit late that Toronto is
actually north of Illinois and all of a sudden I get a new perspective
on my cold Chicago suffering. As well as my drug-free status.
Hang in there, Scott and Ted. From here it can only get better.
Randy Harrison: "Don't call him Justin"
By ANN FINSTAD
As Justin Taylor on "Queer as Folk," Randy Harrison
has come a long way in three-plus seasons. Once a naive 17-year-old
who, when asked if he liked the drug Special K replied "I
like Cheerios better," Justin has become the King of Babylon,
a survivor of a violent gay-bashing incident, a successful comic
book artist, and, most recently, a member of a gay vigilante
group Ė as well as winning over the "heartless" Brian
Kinney to boot.
But donít confuse Harrison with the character he plays on
TV. During a recent conversation, heís quick to point out that
although he and Justin might look alike, thatís where the similarities
end. "I think that when he was younger he was more similar
to maybe what I was when I was that age. But, you know we sort
of have grown up in really different directions Ö itís harder
for me to relate to him now than it ever has been. I mean itís
more of a stretch."
"I like that heís more different from me now. I find
it interesting. I find it kind of interesting to start playing
someone that has sort of grown into someone that you probably
wouldnít hang out with in real life, or have that much interest
in talking to Ö " he trails off with a laugh.
Those are strong words regarding a character thatís brought
Harrison much notoriety and acclaim since "Queer as Folk"
premiered. As an openly gay cast member of show thatís often
heralded as the groundbreaking forerunner to the current glut
of mainstream programming featuring homosexuals, I ask Harrison
what itís like to have been a part of that for almost four years.
"Iím glad that one of the first major things I did,
as far as job-wise, was something that does have some social
relevance Ö and I felt like that when I started doing 'Queer
as Folk.' I was aware of it, that we were pushing boundaries,
and we were the first of a lot of things. And it felt good to
"But weíve done that," Harrison says. "And
we did it four years ago. It all kind of seems like a fad a
little bit. And as much as people believe itís progress, it
doesnít seem like it is really."
"I mean, I think the most important thing is it at least
created a sort of a dialogue for people to talk about gay rights
and talk about homosexuality," Harrison says. "And
I think it probably is at this point a little bit easier for
teenagers to come out and for people who are in positions where
theyíre tortured by their identity to [cope] a little better."
"But as far as what itís done for the gay community,
you know, thatís already out, and active," Harrison says.
"I donít know that thereís necessarily been progress. I
feel like thereís a backlash already, a little bit. I feel like
itís as limiting in what people expect of you as a homosexual,
or what they think you are like. We sort of define ourselves
in a way, by these representations of a really small aspect
of what we are in the community."
But despite the faddish nature of the media explosion, Harrison
concedes that it has resulted in an overall positive outcome,
even if it falls short in some ways.
"Itís just hard because Iím more interested in laws
actually changing, and the true perception, the American perception
of what we are actually changing, and I donít really see that
happening. I mean, weíre still pushing. But I feel like the
whole aspect of civil rights, itís totally independent of a
When it comes to talking about infamous sex scenes and nudity
that "Queer as Folk" features on a weekly basis, Harrison
sounds weary, like heís tired of answering the question. I canít
blame him if he is Ė but we are a culture obsessed with sex,
as heís quick to point out, so thereís no skirting the issue.
"Itís funny because everyone wants to talk about [the
scenes]. People like to latch onto sex for some reason still,
and get sort of obsessive about the naked body. Itís funny because
when you watch it, just the fact that itís two people who appear
to be naked Ė even though weíre not Ė in proximity to each other,
an amount of intimacy comes across that oftentimes just really
isnít there. Itís totally technical. But people see two things
and they create that in their minds. You know, you canít see
two naked people together that close and not assume a sort of
And what does he think of the infatuation that people, especially
straight women, have with the Brian and Justin relationship?
"I find it sort of mildly amusing. It just seems kind
of strange, Iím not really a television person, so whenever
people get sort of obsessive relationships about television
characters I find it sort of bizarre."
As one of those people (with the memory of my latest "TV
boyfriend" fresh on my mind), I laugh nervously as he continues.
"Itís really sweet and itís nice that for whatever reason
the story line and our work [are] so compelling."
During the six months of the year while heís not filming
"Queer as Folk," Harrison spends time auditioning,
doing theater, and catching up with friends and family, as well
as taking classes part time at Columbia University. When I ask
what he studies, he says his interests lie in English Literature
and other artistic classes Ė but "not acting [classes]."
As our conversation continues, I get the impression that
Harrison is ready to move on to the next phase in his life,
where the issue isnít how many times his butt has been on television
or whether or not Justin and Brian will ever fully commit to
Harrisonís true enthusiasm seems to lie with the work heís
producing outside of "Queer as Folk."
He makes no secret that heís tired of dressing up and making
the promotional rounds for the show and prefers working in theater
over television. He talks more willingly about his own interests
than the events that occur when heís Justin Taylor, at one point
even saying "It feels strange to be talking about [Justin]
because heís not a real person."
As evidence of his emphatic non-Justin-ism, Harrison shares
that unlike his character, he has no talent as an artist, but
his creativity does express itself in other ways. "I write.
But Iíve never been happy enough to let other people read what
I write. Iíve never had the focus and the attention span to
write a novel. I think I wrote like a 120 page mini-novel when
I was like, 15, and that was the longest thing Iíve ever written
and it was terrible. I write short plays and short movies that
I shoot with my digital camera with my friends."
And when he thinks of the future, when Justin is just a tiny
speck in his rearview mirror?
"Iíll keep acting, you know. Iíll definitely keep doing
theater. Iíd love to break into film. Iím making small films
with my friends now, and after five years of doing that, it
could become bigger films. Iíd love to start a theater company
[with a group of friends] Ö Iíll just keep acting. I donít know
exactly what the opportunities that will present themselves
to me are, I know Iím creating a lot of my own work and thatíll
definitely get bigger and more exciting and maybe one day even
scrounge me up some money."
He laughs, possibly aware that this sounds strange, and amends
himself to say that heíd like to make money on work heís created
on his own, not just by playing someone elseís character.
With the fifth season of "Queer as Folk" just announced,
Justin Taylor isnít quite out of the picture for Randy Harrison
yet. But at least Harrison is excited about his many prospects
for the future.
Randy Harrison: one of the folks at home
By LUKAS SZYMANEK
"It was said that he was gay in real life." I am
quoting from a certain Internet biography of "Queer as
Folk" star Randy Harrison. This is the opening paragraph;
one sentence. In the next one we learn the year of his birth
and of his professional acting experience.
It is a relatively long second paragraph, the last one in
fact. In the margin, thereís a photograph of Harrison in a tight
see-through T-shirt, and sparkles around his head. An idol for
the gay community is born, one who is gay in his private life
as well. Just like his TV character Justin is on-screen. One
goes so well with the other.
Though I wanted to, I did not ask Harrison to comment on
his homosexuality. I think the closest I came was when I referred
to Gale Howardís Brian as a "hunk" while talking about
his and Justinís troubled relationship. I needed to take homosexuality
out of any personal territory.
I can definitely see the appeal; sunny blonde highlights,
eternally boyish facial features (those lips!, those cheekbones!),
a slim, slightly-toned body, and not a hair on his delicate
skin. But even the paltry Internet biography tells me thereís
more to Harrison than his metrosexual features. And my gay friends
are already willing to sell themselves into my slavery to get
his phone number.
But I read further, refusing to be a gay man who stops at
the first paragraph.
I much prefer the description "veteran of the stage."
You must not have been wasting time cruising buff men in gay
bars if youíre proclaimed that at age 27. The truth is Harrison
has been acting since early in his life. He graduated with a
BFA in Theater from the Cincinnati College Ė Conservatory of
Music. Heís been in various stage productions from Shakespeareís
"Midsummer Night Dream" to "Shopping and Fucking."
TV might not seem like the proper progression of an actorís
career in terms of creative ambition, but it certainly is an
offer one definitely finds hard to refuse.
"Theater actors know you donít make money on stage,"
Harrison admits, "I was excited about coming to TV. I feel
more financially secure now."
He tries to continue doing stage work, but finds his theater
career "always on halt, when you have to go to Toronto
[for the "Queer as Folk" shoot].
Not that heís under-appreciative or resentful of his television
work. "It is not nearly as satisfying, but the process
is just as exhausting," Harrison says. "And I love
the group of people I work with."
But still, television equals quality murder, right? Well,
Justin Taylor is not your typical, fake ID-possessing, man-obsessed
twink. Heís a fighter and a survivor. Heís an artist.
During the first season on "Queer As Folk" we watched
him win over the heart of sex god Brian Kinney ,and display
great amounts of courage and confidence. Harrison has given
the character not only his irresistible innocent looks, but
also great charisma and sensibility that transcend his actions.
In the course of three seasons, Justin was gay-bashed at
his prom, clashed with his mother over sexuality, struggled
to stay in school, upheld his drawing talent and creativity,
and soldiered through a grueling relationship with the older
and emotionally arrested Brian with great naivety and even greater
Dare I call Justin a gay teenage role model?
"There is a lot to be learned from Justin," Harrison
says, "Thereís something really powerful and significant
about his coming out process."
Harrison, however, cannot help but judge Justin for getting
sidetracked and lost as of late. "He is 22 and finds himself
stuck in the club culture. He dropped out of college and doesnít
pursue a career."
Harrison tells me that this season there will be much more
drama when it comes to Justin, especially involving a story
line in which his friend gets bashed but doesnít want to press
charges. Harrison says Justin becomes a vigilante. "It
is a wonderfully absurd but pretty radical and interesting story
line that a lot of people can relate to."
As for his love affair with Brian, Harrison remains skeptical.
It was always pretty evident that Brian, throughout the relationship,
needed Justin more than Justin needed him. Even though Brian
financially supported the young student for a short while, emotionally,
the ball was always in Justinís court.
"I think theyíre not meant to be together. There is
the age difference for starters," Harrison says. "Everything
that Justin and Brian have created looks a bit juvenile now,
and Justin realizes that."
That's a pretty tough hit to the fans, many of who look at
Justin and Brian as the gay Ross and Rachel.
"They were a central couple in the beginning,"
Harrison says. "But now the focus shifted towards Michael
and his relationship." The "Friends" simile may
not be totally out of line though. This season the couple is
back together yet again.
As for Harrison, he just completed a DVD promo tour in February,
and new season parties in Miami and New York. He is now done
with his share of promotional obligations, and is happy to relax
in his New York City home.
"It is beautiful here now. Iím beginning to defragment,"
he says, "I am ready to jump into my new life."
Making out with Gale Howard on a regular basis is too exhausting?
I bite my tongue not to ask the question.
Gill adds feminine angle to 'Queer as Folk'
By ANN FINSTAD
Sometimes, amid the gorgeous hard bodies that populate dance
club Babylon, the witty banter of Ted and Emmett, the adorable
grins of Michael and Justin, and the searing gaze of Brian Kinney,
itís easy to forget that there are lesbians on "Queer as
The story of Lindsey Peterson and her partner Melanie Marcus
has often been relegated to "Queer as Folkís" back
burner in favor of showing more pecs and ass, but theyíre a
strong part of the show in their own right. In fact, I was surprised
that Showtimeís new series "The L Word" wasnít a Melanie
and Lindsey spinoff to begin with.
Thea Gill is soft spoken and articulate, much like Lindsey,
the character she plays. Even the fact that she is recovering
from a bad cold doesnít seem to faze her when we speak, as she
talks about how happy she is to finally be home with her six
cats, relaxing after the whirlwind promotional schedule that
accompanied the launch of the fourth season of "Queer As
Folk." Most importantly, she comes across as genuinely
happy to be involved in something that has had such an effect
on people, and speaks of her character with a mixture of awe
Gill, a native of Canada, knew she wanted to be an actress
at a young age, although she admits that if she hadnít, she
probably would have become a social worker or psychotherapist.
Fans of Gill as Lindsey should be grateful that a role in an
elementary school play determined her fate. "In grade five,
I was in a production of 'A Christmas Carol,' and I was cast
as Scrooge, and for some reason I was really excited about that
and once I played that role and got to be on stage in front
of my schoolmates and all that, I figured out that thatís what
I wanted to do. I wanted to be an actress." She laughs,
and continues, "and I have followed my dream ever since."
Her dream took her all the way from miser to mother. In fact,
Gillís favorite episodes are the first six of the series, when
the group was being introduced: Lindsey, new mother to Gus,
Brianís son; and her partner Melanie, hard-edged lawyer. "So
much of what [Lindseyís] character is comes out of those first
few episodes, like she has her first child. She has her best
friend become a father for the first time. She for the first
time is entering into a gay family, creating one for herself
being out and having a family."
Gill, a straight woman, is married to producer Brian Richmond,
but that hasnít stopped her from gaining recognition for championing
gay causes. In fact, her role has made her more sympathetic
to difficulties faced by the gay community. "Iíve had certain
experiences that have been shocking to me because I play a gay
woman on television. So, I take that experience and I multiply
it by 100, 200, 300,000. I canít imagine the pain that it must
be like, to be on the other side of such vicious attacks. Iíve
made a lot of great friends through the show. A lot of them
are gay women. Iíve grown very attached to them."
And when it comes to facing criticism based on the role she
plays, she says "I hope that I was the best actor for the
job whether Iím straight or gay. I donít think it really matters."
Gill is hesitant at first when I ask her how playing Lindsey
has affected her life, saying that she hasnít, but as she talks,
it becomes more obvious she has in some important ways. "Iíve
sort of become a lot more comfortable with my body, with my
own sort of my sexual power as a person, I have actually become
more secure with myself physically."
Gill, who also sings, is devoted to theatre as well. She
tries to perform at least one play during "Queer as Folk"
When we spoke, the renewal of "Queer as Folk" was
still up in the air. (It has since been picked up for a fifth
season.) But beyond the show, Gill has firm ideas about where
she wants her acting career to go. "I want to actually
develop a musical with my stepson, my husbandÖI canít say which
movie it is but we want to sort of re-stage an old idea. And
in terms of film and TV Iím up for anything as long as itís
interesting to me."
"Iíd like to, of course, get a nice meaty role in an
independent or feature film," Gill adds. "I think
my life will always dictate my career. I donít think my career
will dictate my life."
Gill is grateful for the recognition and opportunities "Queer
as Folk" has given her. "I feel famous sometimes!"
she remarks almost giddily. She makes an effort to take time
from her schedule and respond to every letter fans send her,
which sometimes touch her to extreme degrees.
"There was this one boy who wrote on behalf of his friend
who he believed was about to commit suicide, and you know, what
would I have to say, and what would I advise. And I felt so,
I felt in such a position of power, I felt like, 'I donít know,
I donít know what to do in this situation. This isnít for me
to say.' But yet at the same time the boy felt compelled to
ask me. Itís quite a question, so I remembered to be very honest
and highly recommending that he go to a doctorÖ thatís all I
could really doÖbut you know, those types of lettersÖa lot have
been touching and sad and effective and Ötheyíre all amazing,
to feel that people feel compelled to write me and share their
personal lives with me, and I treat it with great respect."
Allan's character, Hunter, returns for
By ANN FINSTAD
the name Harris Allan isnít familiar to you Ė it soon will be,
if this 19-year-old actor/musician has his way.
The new kid
on the "Queer as Folk" cast, Allan first appeared
in the middle of season three, playing Hunter, a 16-year-old
street hustler taken in by Michael and Ben after finding out
he was HIV positive. Early this season, he permanently became
a part of Michael and Benís lives after they won a custody battle
with Hunterís mother, a former drug addict who pushed Hunter
Donít let the dark nature of Hunterís
past fool you. This is no broody teen character of the WB variety.
Alternately volatile and loving, and often sarcastic, Allan
says Hunter is always fun to play. "Every day, every week
we get a script and I see the new stuff and Iím like ĎI get
to say this, I get to do that! Thatís awesome!í Dude, he can
go anywhere! Like, heís a teenager, he can do whatever he wants.
They can make him however they want to. And teenagers are always
changing, itís a lot more flexible with teenagers than adults.
And itís really fun."
The character will be back for
the just-renewed fifth season, which surprised Allan.
said it was renewed for a fifth season?" he asked incredulously.
When I assured him that I had seen it on Showtimeís official
Web site, he cracked, "Iím glad Iím informed." He
promised, "If theyíre back in fifth season, then Iím back."
A third season on a critically acclaimed show? Not bad for
a kid from Vancouver who started acting at 11, spurred by the
work ofÖMacaulay Culkin?
"When I was 9, I asked my mom
if I could start acting, because I was watching "Home Alone"
and "Home Alone 2" and just tearing through those.
She said only if I got my grades up. So I asked her a couple
years later once I was in grade seven, once I had fixed school
and everything, and she said OK. Weíll go for it. And weíre
going to do this the right way. We got an agent and I started
auditioning, getting roles. The ball started rolling from there."
first major role came at age 15, when he was on three episodes
of "Cold Squad," a television show in Vancouver. A
few smaller roles came after that, but nothing to match the
magnitude of "Queer as Folk," a show he hadnít heard
of before he read for the part.
"I hadnít actually seen
the American version. I didnít even really know there was an
American version. I saw the British version advertising on Showcase
(the Canadian premium cable channel that airs "Queer as
Folk"), and thatís it."
He may have been the new
kid on the block, but he quickly clicked with the cast, especially
Hal Sparks and Robert Gant, who play his guardians. He and Sparks
snowboard together when theyíre filming in Toronto
and Robert are awesome, we do really good work. We have the
most scenes together, so when weíre off camera weíre just having
fun and talking. I try to relate to a lot of stuff that theyíre
talking about. So I read a lot of books that are, you know,
intellectual books that I wouldnít normally read, like "The
Da Vinci Code" and "Fast Food Nation." We hang
out, we go to movies and stuff, work out."
praising his cast mates, repeatedly calling them "fun"
and "cool," even though he sometimes finds it difficult
to follow all their interests. "A lot of people are American,
so I have to keep up with the American politics, but I have
a really hard time doing that."
Despite his constant
enthusiasm over how fun it is to play the role of Hunter, it
must be difficult to play someone with such serious issues facing
"I still have to remind myself and kind
of put that into the character all the time. That he is HIV
positive, has been abandoned many times, doesnít really trust
anyone," Allan says. "Itís always underlying, even
if itís a light scene or a heavy scene. Heís also really fun
because, well, I guess fun is an unusual word. Heís more challenging
in an exciting way. Heís got a very hard exterior, is crass
and makes a lot of jokes. But I think thatís also to hide the
actual pain thatís underlying. Heís a very hurt kid and heís
still learning a lot. I think heís an observer. Heís always
seeing what people are talking about, and then he has his own
Unlike the character he plays, Allan has a very
supportive family Ė who are also huge fans of "Queer as
Folk." "They watch it every night," Allan says.
Allan's friends even yell at the screen in support of HunterÖand
"My friends and I watch it and theyíre like
ĎNo, Harris, donít go with him Harris!í I say, ĎItís not me,
In addition to his family, heís received
positive fan response from the role he plays, and is in regular
communication with his fan base via his Web site, www.harrishideaway.com.
"I write the people who send me letters and e-mails,"
Allan says. "I love the fans. I love engaging and talking
to them and hearing what they have to say about the show and
what they think."
Allanís role on "Queer as Folk"
also helped win additional parts. During the break in filming
between seasons three and four, Allan had a part (later cut)
in the movie "Paycheck," played a gill-possessing
"freak of the week" on the WBís Smallville, and played
the young Jonathan Glover in the soon-to-be released film "A
Home at the End of the World," making for one busy break.
"I finished filming at seven in the morning on "Queer
as Folk." I went home, slept 'til 11:30 then immediately
went over to rehearsal for "A Home at the End of the World."
So I had four hours in between."
likes being busy, which bodes well for his myriad of future
plans. When asked what he wants to be doing in five years, 10
years, he rattles off a list that would impress an Olsen twin.
"I will be in feature films. Acting. Leading them.
I will be touring and recording with my band still, and making
that even bigger, lots of huge concerts filling arenas. I want
to have a restaurant that plays movies and has bands that I
like play there. I want to have a huge house. Ten years Ė I
will be 29 in ten years," he says, and like any teenager,
sounds mildly in awe at the prospect. "I may have kids
by then. Like, seven kids on a farm."
I interject, warning him not to tell his girlfriend (yep, heís
straight, and attached) about those plans yet. He modifies himself
before continuing on his laundry list of goals. "I think
threeís the ideal number for kids. Iíd love to have a clothing
line. Cause, then I could make my own clothes and stuff, and
theyíre completely exactly what I want. Cause even now, you
go around shopping and stuff, and you find stuff that works
for you, but never exactly what you want. I also want to direct
movies as well. Iíd like to be the commander of the ship. And
Iím writing screenplays."
"I have a lot of aspirations,"
he admits, still managing to sound humble.
plans include whatever acting jobs await him before the fifth
season of "Queer as Folk" begins filming, and getting
Square Nine Ė the band heís in with his two best friends Ė off
"Iím doing concerts with them and weíre
recording, writing a lot of songs, doing a lot of rehearsals.
Weíre going to be putting together our demo. Iím really excited,"
he says enthusiastically. Allan plays guitar, bass, and sings.
True to form, he also plans to learn to play drums and piano.
He describes the band's sound as rock, and acknowledges
alternative and punk influences. "Weíre going to have an
album sometime, probably after summer, or during summer, so
look out for that."
No matter what his endeavor, Harris
Allan seems to be enjoying himself, and will certainly be someone
to look for in the future.